Former State Park Director and Ranger Shares His Memoirs at Ellsworth Library



ELLSWORTH — Irvin ‘Buzz’ Caverly Jr. has spent most of his life working outdoors in Baxter State Park fulfilling Maine Governor Percival Baxter’s wish that the park should remain “forever wild.”

In a change of scenery, Caverly spent last Thursday night inside the Ellsworth Public Library promoting his biography, “Wilderness Partners.”

The legendary BSP director and ranger, accompanied by his wife, Jan, and author Phyllis Austin, made an appearance at the library to speak about the book (Tilbury House Publishing, Gardiner, 2009, $20) December 2008) and tell stories from his 45-year park career. Both Caverly and Austin also signed books following the event, which drew 35 people.

Austin, a distinguished Maine journalist and author of the biography, began by outlining Baxter Park’s history and Governor Baxter’s role in its creation. Austin, who closely covered the Katahdin region and park issues during her journalistic career spanning 35 years, found the stories of Baxter, Caverly and the park intertwined.

“I think I had to [write about] all three because they were all so inter-related,” the 67-year-old Brunswick writer explained. “With Buzz being the person who Baxter really passed the obligation [on] to to protect the park.”

In 1930 Percival Baxter purchased 6,000 acres of land, including Mount Katahdin, and donated the area to the state of Maine under conditions that it would be kept “forever wild.” The land amassed by Baxter continued to grow for the next 32 years until it reached over 200,000 acres. In 1960, a young Caverly, straight out of high school, began working at the evolving park. Through his numerous conversations with Baxter, the young ranger developed a sense of the former governor’s hopes for the park’s future.

A letter sent to Caverly from Baxter just months before his death in 1969 emphasized the young park ranger’s role.

“We are partners in this project,” Baxter wrote in the letter. These words stuck with Caverly as he moved through the ranks of management, acting as director of the park for 22 years before his retirement on June 30, 2005.

Caverly, who grew up in the village of Cornville in Somerset County, now lives in Corinth.

“My work at Baxter Park and the various capacities for 46 years was… more of a lifestyle than it was a job,” the 70-year-old retiree remarked Thursday night. “You just never knew what was going to happen so you never had time to get bored.”

Often during his career, Caverly became a lightning rod for criticism through his mission to preserve the wilderness. While it didn’t always make him popular, he succeeded in his efforts to restrict hunters, snowmobilers and motorcyclists. At the time of his retirement in 2005, Caverly said he felt that he had worked hard to fulfill the vision of Baxter, whom he refers to as “the good governor.”

“I left the park with a feeling that it was in better shape than it was when I went there…,” recalled Caverly, who knows that changes will occur, but he is confident that his former staff will remain vigilant about Baxter’s dream.

In the book, reflecting seven years of research and interviews, Austin details how Caverly and the park matured side by side. In the nearly 600-page book, the many stories give a real sense of what goes on behind the scenes at a state park. The close look into his own life made Caverly a bit hesitant at first about being the subject of a book.

“Initially there was some apprehension about it because you really open up your whole life,” he said. “There are no skeletons in my closet. The door is wide open.”

These days Caverly is enjoying life as a retiree, spending time with his family, including his great-grandson, and spending time at his camp, which sits on an eight-acre parcel of land that he lovingly referred to as “mini Baxter Park.”

For more outdoor news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

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